Eric Robbins was the first to point it out on in a post on the Laser Forum noting that
On recent Sundays, there have been over 120 people RACING LASERS at either Cedar Point in Westport, CT (one hour from NYC) or Newport.How right he is, but the phenomenon of growth in single-handed frostbite racing is happening in other classes as well as Lasers and is to be found all over New England.
The CPYC and Newport programs keep leapfrogging each other for turnout, but both programs show the health and GROWTH of Laser racing at the local level.
For example the other CPYC, Cottage Park Yacht Club, in Winthrop Massachusetts also has a thriving Laser frostbite fleet. Maybe not yet quite as large as their sister fleets in Rhode Island and Connecticut but around 25 boats. Here's a photo of the action there...
And according to the New England (District 7) Laser Class website these frostbite fleets are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) with cold season Laser activity also in Marion Massachusetts and Essex Connecticut.
Then in Barrington Rhode Island we have the Barrington Yacht Club Sunfish Frostbite Fleet who seem to have 15 to 20 boats out most weekends.
And even further north, popular sailing blogger Eliboat reports that the Cape Cod Frosty fleet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is going from strength to strength with 24 Frosties racing last weekend. Here is a photo from Eliboat's site of the Frosties in action...
Hmm, let's see, that's Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I'm not aware of any frostbite racing in the other two New England states Maine and Vermont. Maybe I haven't looked hard enough or maybe those guys are enjoying the great skiing in their states?
So what's responsible for this craze for spending several hours every Sunday afternoon racing a small boat in icy conditions? Is it just the opportunity to extend the sailing season, even in one of the coldest regions of the country, to 9, 10 or even 12 months of the year? Is it the simplicity of single-handed sailing -- no need to line up crew, just show up and sail? Is it the wish of racing sailors, many from other classes, to keep their racing skills sharp in the winter?
Probably all of the above. Plus the enthusiasm and passion of some key individuals responsible for the growth of these fleets, coupled with their creative, not to say persistent, use of emails, forums, sailing club websites, yes and even blogs, to publicize their activities. One idea that some of these fleets use to encourage fleet members and to raise standards all round is to publish Words of Wisdom each week, usually written by the week's winner, to explain to the rest of the fleet how he or she pulled it off and to pass on tips to less experienced sailors.
But that will be the subject of a whole other post ...
In the meantime, enjoy this video of Laser Fleet 413 in action in Newport last weekend.